Bar expert says: Master this checklist before opening for business

Alcohol, Restaurant Operations, Marketing + PR,
By Lisa Wilson, Showroom Sales Rep at ACityDiscount

This is the life of bar owners: hard work, long hours and constant problem solving – from busted pipes in the bathroom and unruly customers to technical issues with the point-of-sale system and inventory purgatory. 

Unless you have capital to throw at these challenges, you’re going to handle most of these issues, big and small – 24/7.
Still, bar ownership is a dream of many ACityDiscount customers; a dream that if nurtured properly, can lead to profitable results. That’s why I created a list of questions future bar owners should address before grand openings.
What kind of bar customer are you aiming for?
There’s no wrong answer; just make sure your answer matches your marketing efforts and the neighborhood. Don’t aim for a laid-back crowd near a college with a thriving campus life. Don’t place a mechanical bull in an area where plenty of parents pass by your establishment pushing strollers.

Or if you do, make sure you’re aware of the challenges, and create a marketing game plan.

Also, what makes your bar different? Is it an upscale locale… does it offer affordable drinks… is it a family atmosphere… does it showcase unique or local spirit selections? There’s no wrong answer; just have an answer.
In short, know your niche. 

What does your alcohol selection – especially the specialty drinks – say about your bar? (Same goes for your glassware, wine selection, etc.)
Create a theme. Remember your theme. Stick to your theme.
Will you serve food - snacks, appetizers, entrees or desserts?
While alcohol profits are much higher than food profits, the latter can keep customers around longer – to increase the spirits tab (especially salty snacks).

Commercial hoods are one of the most expensive items in a commercial kitchen. But there is a way to prepare food without a hood. Try a ventless hood!
Have you tested your theory?
That’s what friends are for… Besides, due to your soon-to-be long work hours, friends and family are going to have to get accustomed to stopping by the bar if they want to see you.
Have you hired a lawyer to handle your liquor license application?
Without this license, you’re selling soda pop and lemonade. Don’t risk it. Find somewhere else to save money.
Are you entering the bar business with an eye on your health?
This is a tough business. It’s common for bar owners to arrive on-site before 10 am (conduct daily inventory and follow- up on last night’s report) and walk out the door after 3 am. Make sure you’re not only taking care of the bar and employees, but yourself.
Have you stocked enough glassware to serve customers during a late-night rush without running out of clean items before they are washed and sanitized?
Glassware should be based on expected occupancy. If your capacity is 100, and you plan to serve draft beer, buy – at the very least – 150-200 beer glasses. I suggest pint glasses; they’re universal, easy to find and available at decent prices.
What are you doing so you don’t re-create the bar wheel?
Don’t just learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mishaps of others. Become a student of the bar scene.
Are you prepared for your startup budget to increase by 20 percent?
Plan ahead. Don’t let a lack of funds stall your bar project.
Do you like the area, including other businesses and families?
Make sure you do. After all, you’re going to be around them a lot.
What’s your strategy for turning a profit in Year 1?
Don’t do anything until you answer this question.
About the Auther
Lisa Wilson created ACityDiscount’s bar equipment checklist to help foodservice operators enjoy a simpler path to spirits and sales. Lisa is a veteran of the Atlanta and Los Angeles bar scenes. Need help starting or restocking your bar? Call Lisa or any member of ACityDiscount’s sales staff at 404-752-6715. Or visit